When I was nineteen I had my life figured out. I was perhaps slightly behind since I had not locked down a plan when I was eighteen. Still better late than never. Everything was in place: I would go off to college, eventually earn a master's degree in counseling and then move back to the beautiful state of Alaska. I would fall in love, marry a man who was in alignment with my plan and eventually have kids — preferably two. I would build a successful counseling practice, impact my community, and, in general, change the world.
I was full of confidence as I headed to college in Oregon. I put posters all over my dorm room of Alaskan mountains and wild life, determined not to go a day without seeing a glimpse of the Great Land. This strange new state sure didn't feel like home.
But then half way through my sophomore year Oregon did feel like home and my well laid plan fell to pieces.
That summer when I went back to Alaska nothing had changed about the glorious mountains or the pristine air. But I had changed on the inside and my sense of belonging to this ancient land was gone.
I panicked. Not only was Alaska no longer my home but I no longer wanted to be a professional counselor. Oh and it became clear that the guy I had been crushing on since week two of my freshman year was not going to be my future husband. I was having a mid-college crises before I had even archived the second step of my master plan.
Have you ever had God pull a course correction on you? The life trajectory you were on needed a nudge and He happily obliged? For a planner this is not fun or at least it wasn't fun the first, second and third time He has done this to me. I grieve in the process but after the fact I am grateful He cares enough to step in. Always His story turns out better than if I had been leading.
I graduated with just a bachelor's degree, and fell in love twice before the right man asked me to marry him. I've traveled to Asia and back and learned that no matter what people group I find myself in I end up adoring them. Several months ago I looked back and realize a full decade has passed since I moved to Oregon. And I am still in this incredible place. I talked to my husband as the date of my ten year anniversary approached and asked his thoughts on buying something to celebrate. No “celebrate” is not the right word. “Commemorate” is a better fit.
I want to remember that God had me stay a decade in a land I never expected to live in. I need to remember how much I don't know the plan He has and that He wants to bless me with the unexpected. The people I have met down here are amazing, and if I had not stayed I probably would not be married to my wonderful husband. The opportunities for adventure and impact over the past decade have fed the desire of my heart that was initially kindled when I was nineteen.
And so I went out and bought a necklace. A compass pendant. It's a reminder of a decade well spent and that sometimes God changes the sails of your ship. I have come to trust that He knows what He is doing.
What's something in your life that you are grateful for and want to remember?
I was in a season of waiting. Waiting for several large life transitions. Waiting. Waiting. It lasted for months. I’m not very fond of waiting.
Every time I tried to check in with God I would get the strangest sensation inside my soul. It felt like a cold clear night, where you can see the starts and your breath. Like the deep breath before something new. My painting "New Beginnings" was inspired by this sensation. I knew that on the other side of the waiting something amazing was going to happen. Like a star being born.
But I didn’t know when the new beginning would start or when I would paint the picture.
It wasn’t until May 2019, five months after I started seeing the picture that I felt like it was time. I was at the Amazing Grace Women’s Conference painting on stage for over 120 wonderful women. The theme of the event was “reaching” and I could not help but think of reaching into the void of waiting. It’s best to be reaching for God before your star is born.
After I decided on this picture I found out that the theme verse was “For great is your love, reaching to the heavens: your faithfulness reaches to the skies.” Psalm 57:10 (NIV). That made me smile as I started painting this scene in the heavens.
I wanted to finish the painting at the conference but that didn’t happen. In fact, the fiery particles surrounding the new star took two months to finish. Aaron and I had several conversations about my pieces and almost every time he said something along the lines of “the colors are lovely but the painting didn’t look like it’s in space. Light in space doesn’t act that way.” As I continued to work the paint and craft the piece my season of waiting for life circumstance also persisted.
Then two amazing things happened. First, I was able to follow my husband’s artistic advance and finished the painting. Second, I had a revelation about new beginnings that redirected my focus and brought peace to my soul.
As I began to write about this painting I got stuck. I was focused so much on the star and the anticipation of the breakthrough that God had to gently nudge my spirit. I believe He said, “New beginnings are never the beginning of the story.”
This caused a long pause in my spirit before I was able to absorb what He was saying. At first I didn't want to look beyond the relief of breakthrough. But the more I pondered the more I started to grasp His point.
Here is what I wrote in my journal 7/21/19.
“New beginnings look like “and Suddenly” from the outside and can often be marked by a moment, an event or a shift. But a new beginning never just happens. There is always a story proceeding it; preparation, thoughts and choices (good or bad). I myself have often prayed for God to break into my circumstances with a drastic change. Most of the time it’s because I wanted deliverance from something without having to do anything. I wanted a change now, with only a prayer as my partnering act with God. But new beginnings are best when you embrace and value the journey leading up to it. The “and suddenly” of God is amazing but it’s a very small part of the story and the relational journey.
There is a process, a story and even a death before the big bang of a new beginning. As we partner with God’s timing we don’t have to be impatient and passive. We can pray and ask God how we can participate in the process leading up to our breakthrough.”
After these reflections here are some questions I have started asking myself and God in the middle of my waiting. Perhaps they can help you as well.
Am I willing to participate in the process before my new beginning?
What can I do while I am waiting that still connects with my new beginning?
What are other examples in my life where there was a new beginning and what was the story of the process leading up to it?
My challenge to myself and to you is to embrace the process before our awaited new beginning and to allow joy to filter through each step of the journey.
"New Beginnings", 24"x30", Acrylic, July 2019
I like to write as well as paint. Often times the story behind a piece brings more life to the work. - Jessica Broich